By now, everyone knows that driving under the influence of alcohol is incredibly risky for everyone on the road. The numbers of traffic fatalities caused drunk driving each year is staggering.
But how many people even consider the hazard of drunk walking? Based on data recently released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), based on data supplied by state highway departments, perhaps we should consider it a bit more. It turns out that more than a third of all pedestrians killed in 2011 would have been too drunk to drive.
According to the data, 1,547 pedestrians fatalities – about 35 percent of the total number killed that year – had a blood alcohol content (BAC) level of .08 or higher, which is the legal limit for driving. More than half of the 625 pedestrians between the ages of 25 and 34 who were killed had a BAC above that level. The same was true of most age groups, with the exception of pedestrians who were aged 55 or older or those younger than age 20. In those two demographic groups was the share of those killed a third or less.
These numbers are staggering, especially when you consider that only 13 percent of drivers who are involved in crashes with pedestrian fatalities were over the legal BAC limit. This means, if you’re walking drunk, you are a greater danger to yourself than a drunk driver is to you.
Compare these numbers to the rate of drunk driving fatalities. In 2011, 31 percent of all traffic fatalities, or 9,878 deaths, were attributable to traffic accidents involving a driver under the influence.
In part because of these startling statistics, and also because 2011 saw 4,432 pedestrian fatalities, which constituted a 3 percent increase from the previous year, the Department of Transportation has embarked on a new effort to reduce pedestrian deaths. They are being joined by the Governors Highway Safety Association, which represents state highway safety offices.
Everyone noted that part of the problem may be the effectiveness of the anti-drunk driving campaigns, which could be encouraging more people to walk home, rather than drive, after a night of drinking. This is good for drivers, but bad for the drunk walking home. The effect of alcohol impairment is that pedestrians could end up making bad decisions. These might include crossing a road at the wrong spot, crossing intersections against the light, or attempting to win a race with a bus or a truck.
Everyone wants to avoid driving drunk these days, but the best alternative is probably to plan in advance, and have a designated driver, or have the phone number for a cab company handy. Being a drunk pedestrian is almost as hazardous to your health as being a drunk driver.